Roughly halfway through the summer league, it’s time to take a look at what we’ve seen so far.
Keep in mind, there’s a lot we can’t learn from the summer league, especially if we just look at stats. (remember how Marco Bellinelli went off last year?) The game is played at a breakneck pace, there is often very little team play and there are a ton of fouls. However, you can take some stuff away from it, especially if you watch the games closely.
First of all, we’ll take a look at the Orlando Summer League. Who impressed and who disappointed?
Mario Chalmers – More than anyone, Chalmers might have come to the league with an axe to grind. After falling to the second round, Chalmers showed that he’ll be in the discussion for Miami’s starting point guard spot. He’s a very good shooter with NBA range, and he was much better than expected at getting in the lane and drawing contact. Most importantly though, he showed off the defensive prowess that he displayed in college. He’s got great anticipation, and he defended some quality guards, most notably Derrick Rose.
Russell Westbrook – His skillset is perfect for Summer League play since he’s so good in transition. That’s really where he excels right now. I’m still doubtful about his point guard skills, but he’s a tremendous athlete and made good decisions throughout all the games. Everybody in attendance was drooling over his performance.
Sean Williams – He showed off the remarkable physical tools that make him such a great defensive prospect. He gave Michael Beasley fits with his length and quickness and forced him into an absolutely terrible game. He’s not going to give you anything offensively besides putbacks, but he has great athleticism.
Courtney Lee – I was really surprised at how well Lee played. He played very under control and didn’t seem fazed by the speed of the game. He was almost unconscious shooting the ball, and even showed some point guard skills.
Marcin Gortat – For a former 57th pick, I was really impressed by Gortat. He showed a great feel for the game. He was efficient offensively, averaged over 2 blocks a game, and did a good job on the glass. He has a great chance of helping the Magic out with their lack of big man depth.
Kevin Durant – Durant only played one game, so I’m just putting this here as a note. If you recall, Durant had plenty of struggles as a rookie in last year’s summer league. In this year’s cameo performance, everything he did was effortless. He scored 22 points, but if you watched him it was clear that he could have scored anytime he wanted. His extension on his jump shot is unreal, and his skill level is outrageously high. Watch out next year, Durant is much improved from last season.
Derrick Rose – This is the obvious one. He played tenatively and didn’t do a whole lot in the time he was out there. Then he tweaked an injury and sat out the rest of Chicago’s games. Not an impressive first showing from the number 1 pick.
Shawne Williams – The former first round pick certainly didn’t impress. Despite being the top offensive option for his team, he didn’t score in bunches (15 ppg), shot a poor percentage, turned the ball over a ton, and was generally just bad.
That’s pretty much it for the Orlando League. Nobody else stood out as being particularly impressive or disappointing. That brings us to the first half of the Vegas Summer League, which has been much more exciting and eventful so far. I’m not going to tell you who’s been impressive or disappointing, just who has stood out to me through the first 4 days.
Vegas Summer League
Jerryd Bayless – Any discussion of the Vegas Summer League has to start and end with Bayless. He’s been a dynamo in Portland’s 2 games, getting to the rim whenever he wants and drawing contact time after time. In two games, he’s shot an absolutely ridiculous 39 free throws. He’s as good as anyone I’ve ever seen at splitting the two defenders on a pick and roll. That sounds ridiculous, but it’s just effortless with Bayless. He has incredible burst and change of direction, and when bigs try to hedge on him, he just blows through straight to the rim, leaving two defenders grasping at his shoestrings.
Petteri Koponen – As good as Bayless has been, you could say that Koponen has been equally as good for the Blazers, especially considering how he came in with little fanfare. Petteri has been on scouts’ radar screens for a while now, and a lot of international scouts considered him a lottery-type talent when the Blazers took him in the late first round of last year’s draft. It’s easy to see why since Koponen has had his way with the Summer League. He’s been money from deep, draining effortless jumpers off the dribble whenever defenders go under the screen on him. He has also displayed very good court vision, penetrating and delivering some very nice passes to cutters. Though he’s had a bit of trouble at times when pressured 3/4 court by quicker guards (Sacramento’s Sean Singletary and Quincy Douby both noticably bothered him at times), it hasn’t been much of an issue.
Donte Greene – Sadly, I missed seeing Greene’s 40-point explosion that is probably the best performance in Summer League history, so there’s only so much I can say about it. However, 40 points is 40 points, and the fact that he got them so efficiently (12-20 FG, 5-10 3FG, 11-12 FT, 0 TO) is very impressive. I’ll definitely be watching tonight to see what he does for an encore performance.
Kevin Love – I just finished watching the TWolves play the Lakers in a nailbiter. Love was good in his first game (18-13) but definitely showed some rookie jitters. Tonight, he was as good as they come, putting together an all-around show (18 pts, 17 reb, 4 ast, 2 blk). More than that, the impact his ability to quickly outlet the ball has is startling. Even off made baskets, Love can often snap a quick pass upcourt to a guard who is already behind the defense. Though he often doesn’t get an assist for this, you could see the impact it had in Minnesota’s furious 4th quarter comeback, as Pooh Jeter and Corey Brewer repeatedly took the ball to the hole against unset defenses. If given enough PT, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Love had a double digit rebounding average this season. His positioning is excellent, he goes after everything relentlessly, and his hands are as good as any big man in the league. He’s going to have to get in better shape though, there were times in the fourth quarter where he was barely across half-court before the play ended. That isn’t going to fly in the League.
Corey Brewer – Funny thing happened on my way to writing this post. I was going to write about how poorly Brewer has played and how lost he looked in the half-court at times. How poor his shooting had been through 2 games. Then, Brewer put on a dazzling display in the 4th quarter, almost leading his team to victory and reminding us why he was a lottery pick. He was getting out in transition (thank you, Kevin Love) and finishing creatively around guys and through contact. Then, he made a play you will undoubtedly see on several highlight reels, coming from out of nowhere to reject an easy transition layup. It was a jawdropping play, and a little reminder of Brewer’s athletic gifts. He’s still a work in progress in the halfcourt, and he still needs to get stronger, but he’s a very good transition player and a dynamic defender, and should have a much better sophomore season than last year.
J.J. Hickson – I’m a bit biased towards the former N.C. State player, but Hickson’s performance in his first game was as good as anyone not named Greene. He was simply dominant in the post, scoring 26 points on 11-15 shooting and ripping down 7 offensive rebounds. He’s tremendously strong and very explosive in the low post, going over and through people to get to the rim. He showed great timing and anticipation on several tip dunks. He was also effective when facing the basket, usually making one or two strong dribbles and finishing through contact. Though he’s only 19, he has an NBA-ready body, and may contribute for the Cavs much sooner than expected.
O.J. Mayo – It’s a bit hard to know what to make of Mayo. He hasn’t gotten to the line much, he hasn’t shown much in the way of point guard skills, and he’s been very turnover prone. However, he’s been showing off the beautiful shooting stroke that makes him such a deadly offensive weapon. His perimeter footwork is fantastic, using jabs, pivots and shot fakes to free himself without taking a dribble. It compensates for his lack of top-notch explosiveness. Unlike Bayless, who seems to dart everywhere on the court, Mayo is the very definition of a smooth player, seeming to glide around the court at times. He has a ways to go in his decision-making and playmakings ability, but his shot is so good that he’s always going to be a solid player for someone.
Jason Thompson – He’s been very foul-prone and hasn’t always displayed the best decision-making, but the big man from Rider is opening a few eyes here with the Kings. He’s more athletic than most people gave him credit for, and he has real face-up skills on the perimeter. He loves to drive left across the lane and then quickly pull up with a right handed shot. It’s a tough shot to make without banking it in, but Thompson looks to be pretty consistent with it, and it’s very tough to defend since your body is moving in the opposite direction of the shot.
Marreese Speights – There were some raised eyebrows when Philadelphia made Speights the 16th pick, but he’s certainly been impressive so far in Vegas. Shooting a high percentage through 4 games (53.6%) and averaging 19 and 10, he’s brought a lot of energy and athleticism to this Sixers team. Maybe even more impressively, he’s avoiding the turnover and foul problems that usually plague players in the Summer League, especially rookie big men. He probably won’t get a lot of burn next year behind Elton Brand, but he should be a valuable part of the Sixers’ future.
JaVale McGee – While he has made some terrible decisions and looked really lost at times during his first two games, it’s easy to see why he is such an intriguing prospect. His length really is incredible, he’s a legit 7-footer with a tremendous reach. He went to a fadeaway jumper off the class several times, and while he didn’t convert too many of them, the shot looks absolutely unblockable because he gets great separation on it. If he works to get stronger and develop his touch around the basket, he has the potential to be a very tough cover. It’s a big “if”, but I was really intrigued by what I saw of him.
D.J. Strawberry – I’ve been a Strawberry fan for a while, and I think he’s got a great chance to take the backup point guard slot in Phoenix. He dropped 22-6-5 on Houston, and reportedly played great defense on Donte Greene late in the game, despite giving up a huge height advantage to Greene.
MVS (Most Valuable Scrub) – He’s not going to get a lot of playing time next year, but the performance of Coby Karl should at least net him a roster spot somewhere. On a Lakers team that has absolutely no business winning a summer league game (really, their roster is not good at all), Karl has been the main factor in them winning 2 games. He has shot the ball well from deep, gotten to the line, showed good floor vision and been surprisingly effective on the defensive end.
Sadly, the Cleveland-Houston webcast tonight is not working for me, so I’ll have to rely on the boxscore and hope they put out the webcast archive later. Hickson led the way with 18 for Cleveland (7-15 FG), while Greene definitely came down to earth with an inefficient (4-17 FG, 4 TO) 17 point performance. Joey Dorsey, in classic mini-Ben Wallace mode, had 14 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block, 6 turnovers, 6 fouls, and went 0-6 from the FT line.
That’s it for now. Check back in a few days for a wrap up of the Vegas League.
BallerBlogger contributing writer ‘xphoenix87′ is a college student who dreams of one day writing about sports for a living. Since that’s not gonna happen, he’ll do this instead.